TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY A HOMILY by Fr. Matthias Lusembo

THEME: IF YOU FORGIVE, YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER WILL FORGIVE YOU (Mt 6:14)

Many people harbor anger, grudges, retaliation, hatred and the like. Can that eliminate the injustice one has experienced? Can’t that lead to headaches or even stress, without even the offender knowing what you are going through. Isn’t that self-punishment, innocent as you may be? Many dissensions end in divorce, violence, war, due to lack of forgiveness.

This Sunday’s readings, particularly the first, Psalm 103 and the gospel texts, concern forgiving those who hurt us. This is the path to interior and social peace. In the first reading (Sirach 27:30-28:2), Sirach has taught us that “Anger and hot temper are horrible things, but sinners have both. The Lord is taking note of your sins and if you take vengeance on someone, the Lord will take vengeance on you. But if you forgive someone who has wronged you, your sins will be forgiven when you pray.”

“You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev 19:18).

This is exactly what Jesus emphasizes in Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” That is why, in the confessional, before I give absolution, I ask the penitent: Have you forgiven all those who annoyed you?  

“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth’ (Ex 21:24). But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you.” Declares Our Lord Jesus Christ. (Mt 5:38-39). “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind!” adds Mahatma Gandhi.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you,” continues Jesus in Lk 6:27-28. “If you love only the people who love you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Lk 6:32). Prove to be the better person. Prove to be a Christian!

Since we humans are related to each other as brothers and sisters of Jesus, we are in the family of God, so hatred and bitterness toward anyone should have no place in our hearts.

Nothing should hinder us from loving one another with agape love, not even political parties or color. But we need to avoid injustices that cause dissensions.

In today’s Gospel text from Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Mt: 18:21). Since seven is a perfect number in Hebrew, Peter is asking: Shall I forgive him always? Jesus responds to Peter and us as well that we should forgive “not seven times (not only always), but seventy-seven times”. (Mt 18: 22). Since seventy includes seven ten times, it implies everlastingly.

In the parable, we are represented by the greater debtor because we often commit sins and God forgives us. Imagine, after being forgiven a huge debt, the unforgiving servant refused to forgive his fellow servant the small debt he owed him!

The master was justified to send that servant to jail until he paid off all his debt. We must forgive in order to be forgiven. Jesus explains, after teaching us the prayer Our Father, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you.

We need to forgive and be reconciled: In the light of eternity and considering the shortness of our span of life here on earth, harboring old grudges is pointless.

We may never forget the hurt we have experienced, but we can, with God’s ongoing grace, choose to forgive and pray for our offenders.

When we take a bold decision to forgive, we start the process of healing. So, do not carry that baggage of pain that someone threw at you. Get rid of it.  

Jesus Himself forgave those who crucified Him. And it was because of forgiveness that he died for our salvation. It is out of His mercy that He gives us His body and blood. Otherwise none of us would qualify to share in his dive nature. IF YOU FORGIVE, YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER WILL FORGIVE YOU